HP Z800 Workstation Review

By on May 7, 2012
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An exceptional workstation that delivers industry-leading performance.

Good: Exceptional performance, brilliant chassis design, easy to access internals, variety of configurations available.
Bad: Boot-up a bit on the slow side.
Price: AED 14,600
* The price is the Suggested Retail Price at the time of review. Please call a retailer to confirm the latest price for this product.

Software  & Benchmarks
While HP’s consumer-end laptops and PCs bundle with a suite of applications, the Z800 was packaged with just the bare essentials. There’s software for burning CDs and using the Light-scribe features of the optical drive, as well as HP ProtectTools software that allows you to troubleshoot various areas of your Z800 through some simple steps and diagnostics. There’s also a hardware monitor for more advanced users who want to keep an eye on system resources and temperatures.

Boot time from the Windows 7 logo to the desktop was about 42.3 seconds, which I can’t really complain about as for the most part once this system is turned on, I think that there’s a slim chance that it will be turned off again. The quiet operation and various power saving modes mean that you can just turn off your monitor at the end of the day and the machine will gradually enter into a power-saving mode as configured by your OS.

Benchmarking the Z800 was going to be a challenge. The usual software that we run would not really tax the Z800, so I had to come up with new benchmarks that would actually determine if the Z800 was really the powerhouse HP claimed it to be. My first test was a simple photo editing one in Paint Shop Pro XII. I chose this over Photoshop because traditionally Corel software is almost as resource-hungry (if not more) as Adobe, and plus it allowed me to run scripts on the Z800 that I usually use for photo editing on my regular machine. The test involved 20 images of a recent press event, taken at a resolution of 2048 x 1536 at 72dpi. The script would take each image and first change the resolution to 3456 x 2304 at 72dpi. It would then apply a -5% contrast value, and then apply an automatic color correction feature that would clean up any cloudy areas of the photo. The final image was then saved as a new JPEG file with 25% compression. This test will roughly benchmark how quickly the CPU can run through the script as well as how quickly the new image can be written to the hard drive. The test took approximately 8 minutes on my regular machine, while the Z800 was able to complete it in under 3 minutes

It was time to really see what this machine was capable of, so I downloaded and ran SPECviewperf 11, a software that runs a series of intense rendering sequences to test both CPU and GPU speeds. It renders scenes in both 3D Studio Max as well as Maya, two of the top animation suites being used today. After running the test thrice, the average end scores for each test were as follows (details of each test are here):

I could have possibly have squeezed a bit more juice out the machine if there was a faster graphics card, but even with the supplied Quadro 4000  the end scores are nothing to scoff at. I also fired up Maya on its own and loaded a quick template that I had downloaded of a dragon. Without any texture details or complex light sources, I was able to render a high-resolution image of the model in under four seconds, which was really impressive. The model had 120,844 faces, and as you can see below was easy for the Z800 to render.

I next fired up Adobe Premier Pro for a quick video test. I took eight HD clips I had recorded on my Canon 55D, and just dropped them in one after another without any transitions or special effects. I then exported the movie as a Quicktime movie, with 32 bit audio at 48,000Hz and 720×480 resolution. The entire clip was encoded in about 3 hours on my regular machine, while the Z800 output the file in just under 41 minutes. It’s ridiculous that I have to often leave my projects for encoding overnight or while I’m out to lunch, while the Z800 can process and output everything in a fraction of the time.

My final test was with DAWBench, which was recommended to me by a friend who’s an audio engineer. The software helps stress test a system on how it handles multiple audio tracks and channels in real-time, which is useful for anyone who intends to use the Z800 for audio work and mixing soundtracks. Often when too many tracks are applied, playback begins to break up or pauses completely. I ran DAWBench with a sample project that has 196 different samples in it along with 2 vocal tracks. With Hyper Threading enabled, the system had zero problems running the track and letting me tweak various settings as it played back. With HT off, the playback started stuttering just a few seconds into the piece, and changing any setting resulted in the project pausing for at least three seconds before resuming playback. This test clearly showed the HT and multi-core capabilities of the Z800 are a must for anyone who’s serious about using this workstation as their main production unit. Just for routine sake I ran Cinebench 11.5 with multi-cores enabled, which came out with a score of 11.42 running at 55.74fps.

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A former IT & Marketing Manager turned full time Editor, Nick enjoys hurling fireballs and tinkering with the latest gadgets. Follow him on Twitter as @theregos

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